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Three questions with Jason Brown before U.S. Championships

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Jason Brown, a sensation at the 2014 U.S. Championships who vaulted himself onto the Sochi Olympic team, had a much different experience at the 2018 nationals. He placed sixth and missed the PyeongChang Olympic team.

In the time since, Brown moved from his longtime (and only) coach Kori Ade to Brian Orser in Toronto, Canada, where he now trains alongside world champions Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan and Javier Fernandez of Spain.

Brown opened this season with a fourth place finish at Autumn Classic. On the Grand Prix series, he was sixth at Skate Canada but rebounded for a silver at Grand Prix France (he actually won the short program ahead of Nathan Chen). Then, he won Golden Spin in December.

At his media teleconference ahead of nationals, he noted that his focus is on the big, four-year picture and that his progress has been slow and steady.

Here’s what we learned:

1. The changes he expected in his skating really started clicking after his second Grand Prix assignment.

“The biggest thing when I came to Toronto, they sat me down and talked to me about this 18-month process. Just to feel comfortable, it will take 18 months. I was very open about that and willing for the process of – that understanding that change takes time. I was definitely up for it, up for the challenge and up for whatever the progress looked like. At the beginning it was extremely difficult. I think I did find myself a little frustrated with how slow the progress was coming on or how long it really took me to get comfortable with what I was learning.”

“That being said, I always had that perspective. They were always there to guide me and understood. They’ve done it with skaters in the past and it does take time. I was able to keep a level head through the whole thing and remain confident and really believing in the process. I think that’s what I’m still going through.”

“We work on quality every single day. All my elements and all my skating skills and all the programs. It’s constantly adapting. I’m making these tiny, tiny steps along the way. The thing that we’re most focused on right now is building a very strong base heading into the next four years. That’s really all that I can ask for and all that I’m focused on. That’s where my mentality is wrapped around.”

“I really do think that I hit this turning point in France and things started clicking. I really started to understand their technique. I think it’s just continued to get better from there.”

2. He had a small injury while skating at Golden Spin in early December, but still won the event.

“I sprained my ankle in Croatia. It was a little upsetting but it was what it was. It was small and it was nothing to make a big deal out of. We adjusted my program a little bit and I taped it up. I really didn’t bring any light to it because there’s really no light to be brought to it because it isn’t affecting me and I’m continuing to train the best that I can.”

3. Brown sees momentum building between himself and his new coaching staff, while also building on results from competition to competition.

“I’ve learned and I’ve gotten closer with my coaching team. And understanding the way they’re at in competition, the way that we do the six-minute warmups, our communication has gotten stronger and better. We’ve gotten to know each other a lot better in those situations. That’s a big momentum builder for me. There’s a bit of calmness, like, ‘Okay I’ve done this before’ with them. We have a routine. Early in the season, I was like, ‘I don’t really know what’s gonna happen! How’s it gonna go?’”

“That’s a huge momentum builder because there’s a lot more confidence that I have going in, knowing what to expect. There’s not as many surprises or unknown. That’s really helpful going into big events, being sure the way it’s gonna play out as far as our team as coach and athlete, and the expectations both ways.”

MORE: 3 questions with Bradie Tennell before the U.S. Championships

As a reminder, you can watch the U.S. Championships live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

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World Cup Alpine season opener gets green light

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After checking the snow on the Rettenbach glacier in Soelden, Austria, FIS officials announced Thursday that the traditional World Cup season opener is set to go ahead as planned Oct. 26-27 with men’s and women’s giant slalom races.

Current conditions at Soelden show a solid 30 inches of snow at the summit. The race finishes at an altitude of 2,670 meters (8,760 feet), far above the currently snowless village.

The first races of the season are never guaranteed to have enough snow, though last year’s men’s race at Soelden had the opposite problem, being canceled when a storm blew through with heavy snowfall and high winds. 

France’s Tessa Worley won the women’s race last year ahead of Italy’s Frederica Brignone and U.S. skier Mikaela Shiffrin, who would go on to dominate the rest of the World Cup season.

The Soelden weekend is followed by three dormant weeks until the season resumes Nov. 23-24 in Levi, Finland. The World Cup circuits then switch to North America. The men will run speed events Nov. 30-Dec. 1 in Lake Louise, Alberta, then head to Beaver Creek, Colo., for more speed events and a giant slalom Dec. 6-8. The women run slalom and giant slalom Nov. 30-Dec. 1 in Killington, Vt., and head to Lake Louise the next weekend.

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Olympic marathon and race walk move from Tokyo to Sapporo draws some pushback

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In the wake of a dropout-plagued set of world championship endurance races in Qatar, moving the 2020 Olympic marathons and race walks from Tokyo to the cooler venue of Sapporo is a quick fix for one problem, pending the potential for untimely heat waves.

But the move has drawn some opposition for a variety of reasons.

First, many organizers and politicians appear to have been caught by surprise. Tokyo’s governor, Yuriko Koike, was “taken aback” and Sapporo’s mayor, Katsuhiro Akimoto, learned about the move from the media, Kyodo News reported. Koike even sarcastically suggested that the races could move all the way northward to islands disputed by Russia and Japan.

South African sports scientist Ross Tucker suggested that running in heat and humidity poses an interesting challenge for athletes, some of whom may be able to catch up with faster runners by preparing for the conditions.

British marathoner Mara Yamauchi made a similar point, saying the move was unfair to those who already were preparing for the heat, humidity and other conditions.

Belgian marathoner Koen Naert said he will make the best of the change but complained that some of his preparation and every runner’s logistical planning would no longer apply.

The angriest athlete may be Canadian walker Evan Dunfee, who placed fourth in the 2016 Olympic 50km race and nearly claimed bronze as a Canadian appeal was upheld but then rejected. He says runners and walkers can beat the conditions if they prepare, which many athletes did not do for the world championships in Qatar.

“So why do we cater to the ill prepared?” Dunfee asked on Twitter.

The move also takes athletes out of the main Olympic city and takes away the traditional, tough less frequent in modern years, finish in the Olympic stadium.

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